Rabbi Dovid Heller z”l
Posted on October 27, 2013 by Tziporah Heller
Dear friends who I know, and friends who sent me such meaningful and beautiful words even though we have never met,
As most of you know, it has been two weeks since I got up from sittingshiva for my husband David. He died suddenly of a stroke without giving us much warning, but meriting to have a peaceful death surrounded by the family.The passage happened very suddenly. In general we spent Shabbos at home. The reason was that my husband had to be on call at the yeshiva in case he was needed on Shabbos. The week after Succot was still yeshiva vacation, so we went to Beitar where my sons Aharoni, Yehudah and my daughter Rachel live. It was a marvelous Shabbos; everything was perfect. Aharoni’s two year old captured his heart. She even got him to read her favorite book, “Minny Mouse at the Beauty Parlor”, which (as those of you who knew him realize) was quite a stretch. When we got home, he turned in for the night and I went out to walk. I returned, and to my surprise he was still up. We got to talking, and without any warning he slid off the edge of the bed where he was sitting. When he couldn’t get up, I realized that something was really wrong. The hatzalah (which is called Chovesh in HarNof) came immediately. The volunteer called an ambulance which arrived within moments. The paramedic asked him if he felt any pain, and he said that he didn’t. These turned out to be his last words.
The family was there in full strength at the end, all of the children and older grandchildren. My son read the confession, and we then recited the Song of Songs. As the vital signs that the instruments displayed grew fainter, they began to sing songs of dveikus, inner joy, the ones that he would sing every Shabbos at the third meal. They sang AniMaamin, Ohm AniChoma, and the Baal HaTanya’s niggun. My son in law arrived with the prayers that are said at the very end of the journey. This includes AdonOlam, Yigdal, a few psalms and the prayers from the end of the Yom Kippur service. With the final repetition of “Hashem Hu HaElokim” (The L-rd is G-d, which is repeated seven times at Yom Kippur’s conclusion) the paramedic who was watching the instruments, told us to move away from the bed, that his soul has left his body. They continued singing until the men from the chevrakadisha (burial society) came. They took us to the Shamgar funeral home where the taharah (ritual purification before burial) was done. The woman who greeted us there was extremely refined and sensitive, she told us to wait, and then to say our final farewells, and to use the opportunity and privacy to say whatever we had to say individually. We were there both to comfort each other, and to join together in unrestrained grief. The service took place at the Pachad Yeshiva where my husband worked doing everything that needed doing other than teaching for the last 24 years. For the first time, the Rosh Yeshiva spoke at a funeral. RavAharon Feldman came directly from a grandchild’s shevabrachot. There was only two hours between the time that he passed and the funeral so none of the eulogies were “rehearsed” or even really written. All four speakers were real, eloquent, and shared a common theme.
My husband was a man of deeds, not words, he was a man of profound humility, not because he had no ideas of his own, or no passions, but because he lived in absolute submission to the Torah and and love of Torah and those who learn Torah. He brought this love of Torah to the real world. His integrity was the stuff that stories are made of. He was a living embodiment of the ladder that Yaakov saw in his dream; his feet were on this earth, but his head was in the heavens. He helped me organize my trips, teach, write, and do everything else that brought Torah to others. The honor that he ran away from during his lifetime caught up with him at his death. The funeral was enormous, the sort of funeral that is usually reserved for people who are far more well known. It was a great comfort to us to hear how clearly other people saw what we thought we were the only ones to glimpse.